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Displaying items by tag: Shipwrecks

“Substantial progress” is being made in the recovery of gold bullion from a ship wrecked off Donegal nearly 80 years ago, as RTÉ News reports.

Atlantic Subsea Ventures is involved in the salvage operation at the Empress of Britain, a luxury ocean liner that was requisitioned for the war effort in 1939 and targeted by the Nazis the following year.

A number of such vessels are believed to lie in the depts around Ireland, with one in recent years — the SS Gairsoppa off Galway — giving up a record 48 tonnes of silver bullion seven years ago.

The Empress of Britain, which is believed to hold as much as €500 million in gold bullion, was found in 1995 but its location in deep waters precluded any salvage expedition, until now — thanks to remote-operated technology used in the oil and gas industry.

What’s proving a bigger stumbling block for the salvage company, it says, is Ireland’s 7.5% levy on recovered cargo which must also be held for a year and a day before it can be moved on.

RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes

Shipwrecks off the Irish coast are acting as artificial reefs for corals usually found much deeper in the Atlantic.

That’s according to NUI Galway ocean scientist Anthony Grehan, who told the Irish Examiner about his recent surprising find at the wreck of a cargo vessel 160 metres below the surface.

Using the new submersible robot Étáin from the University of Limerick, Grehan and a team on the RV Celtic Explorer found examples of the stony coral species lophelia pertusa, which usually found at depths of 500 metres or more.

And the new discovery suggests that such wrecks may provide the necessary stability for deep-water corals to thrive in shallower waters.

The Irish Examiner has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#Shipwrecks - Heritage Minister Josepha Madigan yesterday (Wednesday 25 April) announced the launch of a new website with an interactive map of the thousands of historic shipwrecks in Irish waters.

The Wreck Viewer has been developed to facilitate free and easy access to the Wreck Inventory of Ireland Database compiled by the National Monuments Service of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 

The database holds information on over 18,000 known and likely wreck sites both off the Irish coast and in Ireland’s inland waterways

These wrecks span the entirety of maritime travel around and within the island, from prehistoric logboats to medieval trading vessels, warships and ocean liners

Detailed are exact locations for approximately 4,000 of the recorded wrecks. The map also provides summary information on individual wrecks and their history, voyage, cargo, passengers and, if known, the circumstances of their loss. 

Information on the 14,000 wrecks in the database for which locations have yet to be fully confirmed can also be downloaded. Further details of these wrecks will be added to the database as they become available.

The Wreck Viewer complements the department’s Historic Environment Viewer, which provides information on archaeological sites across the country from the Sites and Monuments Record compiled under the National Monuments Acts and from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Speaking on the new Wreck Viewer yesterday, Minister Madigan said: “Of particular interest, in this decade of centenaries, are the stories of those wrecks from the First World War. 

“Over 1,000 ships were lost off the coast of Ireland during that conflict, in effect bringing the Western Front to our shoreline and alerting the Irish people to both the grim realities of war and the scale of the tragic loss of life that took place on land and sea.”

The minister added that it’s hoped the website will “promote a much greater appreciation and awareness of our marine heritage and at the same time provide an essential tool to help the protection of this remarkable resource.”

Published in Coastal Notes
Tagged under

#Archaeology - With yet another stormy weekend comes news that continued coastal erosion on the West Coast has exposed the remains of a shipwreck at Killary Harbour.

According to The Irish Times, the wreck on Tallaghbaun Strand is already known to locals though its origins are as yet unclear.

But archaeologist Michael Gibbons believes it could date from the late medieval period, as wrecks from the Spanish Armada have been identified in the region.

Gibbons has also been researching what appear to be the remains of a late Bronze Age or early Christian monastic site on Kid Island in Broadhaven Bay. The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes

#Shipwrecks - Two new shipwrecks have been discovered in Connemara in areas known to be used by smugglers in centuries past, as The Irish Times reports.

Currach fisherman John Bhaba Jeaic Ó Conghaíle found the skeletal remains of what's thought to be an 18th-century vessel at Cuan Chaisín in Ceantar na nOileáin.

Elsewhere, Fahy Bay resident Michael Barry located a second wreck, believed to date from the 19th century, near his home on the northwest Connemara coast – inshore from the Spanish Armada wreck Falco Blanco Mediano.

The area is known as the birthplace of sea captain George O'Malley, one of the most notorious smugglers of his day.

The Irish Times has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes

#HistoricBoats - A team of scientists aboard the Marine Institute's research vessel Celtic Voyager has revealed detailed images of World War I shipwrecks in the Irish Sea.

The team, led by Dr Ruth Plets of the School of Environmental Sciences at Ulster University, set out to capture the highest resolution acoustic data possible of WWI shipwrecks lost in the Irish Sea, using a new multi-beam system (EM2040) on board the RV Celtic Voyager to get the best data ever acquired over these wrecks.

"We were able to capture the most detailed images of the entirety of the wrecks ever," said Dr Plets. "Some of the wrecks, which are too deep to be dived on, have not been seen in 100 years. So this is the first time we can examine what has happened to them, during sinking and in the intervening 100 years, and try to predict their future preservation state."

Among the shipwrecks surveyed were the SS Chirripo, which sank in 1917 off Black Head in Co Antrim after she struck a mine; the SS Polwell, which was torpedoed in 1918 northeast of Lambay Island; and the RMS Leinster, which sank in 1918 after being torpedoed off Howth Head, killing over over 500 people - the single greatest loss of live in the Irish Sea.

Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan welcomed the achievements of the survey, supported by the competitive ship-time programme, saying: "The multidisciplinary team is making an important contribution to understanding and protecting our maritime heritage and to our ability to manage our marine resource wisely."

Explaining how the survey was carried out, Dr Plets added: "We moved away from traditional survey strategies by slowing the vessel right down to allow us to get many more data points over the wreck, with millions of sounding per wreck."

"The detail is amazing as we can see things such as handrails, masts, the hawse pipe – where the anchor was stored – and hatches. Some of the vessels have split into sections, and we can even see details of the internal structure. With the visibility conditions in the Irish Sea, no diver or underwater camera could ever get such a great overview of these wrecks."

As well as acoustic imaging, the team collected samples from around the wreck to see what its potential impact is on the seabed ecology. Sediment samples were also taken for chemical analysis to determine if these wrecks cause a concern for pollution.

The project is carried out to coincide with WWI centenary commemorations, noted Dr Plets. "We often forget the battles that were fought in our seas; more emphasis is put on the battles that went on in the trenches. However, at least 2,000 Irishmen lost their lives at sea, but unlike on land, there is no tangible monument or place to commemorate because of the location on the bottom of the sea.

"In the Republic of Ireland there is a blanket protection of all wrecks older than 100 years, so all these will become protected over the next few years. To manage and protect these sites for future generations, we need to know their current preservation state and understand the processes that are affecting the sites."

The next step for the team is to use the data collected to create 3D models which can be used for archaeological research, heritage management and dissemination of these otherwise inaccessible sites to the wider public.

"There is so much data, it will take us many months if not years, to work it all up," said Dr Plets. "Some of the wrecks are in a very dynamic environment and we are planning to survey these vessels again next year to see if there is a change, especially after the winter storms. That will give the heritage managers a better idea if any intervention measures need to be taken to protect them.

"These data could well signal a new era in the field of maritime archaeology. We hope it will inspire a new generation of marine scientists, archaeologists and historians to become involved. Above all, we want to make the general public, young and old, aware of the presence of such wrecks, often located only miles off their local beach."

The research survey was supported by the Marine Institute, through its Ship-Time Programme, funded under the Marine Research Sub-Programme by the Government.

The diverse team included maritime archaeologists Rory McNeary from the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment and Kieran Westley from the University of Southampton; geologists Rory Quinn and Ruth Plets, both Ulster University; biologists Annika Clements from Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute and Chris McGonigle from Ulster University; Ulster University marine science student Mekayla Dale; and hydrographer Fabio Sacchetti from the Marine Institute who works on Ireland's national seabed mapping programme INFOMAR, run jointly with the Geological Survey of Ireland.

The team blogged about the seven-day survey at [email protected].

Published in Historic Boats

#Shipwrecks - Mail Online is hosting some astounding photographs of wrecks lost off Malin Head during the World Wars as captured by amateur diving enthusiast Steve Jones.

The Welshman made his way around the final resting places of four military and supply vessels – HMS Audacious, SS Justicia, SS Empire Heritage and SS Laurentic – off the Donegal coast during a recent dive expedition.

The latter of these ships is believe to still hold £6 million (€7.6 million) in gold bars somewhere in or around its ghostly hull, though Jones and his team had no luck finding them.

They did however find the seaweed-blanketed remains of a number of Sherman tanks that were being transported by the SS Empire Hertiage.

The so-called 'lost ships of Malin Head' are just some of the numerous wreck sites off the North Coast that was a strategic route for the Allies during both wars and as such a prime target for torpedo and mine attacks.

Mail Online has more on the story HERE.

Published in Historic Boats

#Documentary - A new radio documentary highlighting the historical significance of the many shipwrecks that dot Ireland's shores will be broadcast tomorrow afternoon Saturday 20 November on RTÉ Radio 1.

'Sunken Treasures' is part of the Documentary on One strand and will be on the airwaves from 2pm tomorrow - but the 40-minute documentary is already available to stream or download from the RTÉ website HERE.

The programme, narrated by Patricia Baker, follows diving expert Eoin McGarry as he descends to the shipwreck of the SS Crescent City off Galley Head in Cork in search of her legendary treasure of silver coins and bars - some of which is still said to lie in the depts of Dhilligh Rock.

McGarry should be familiar to Afloat.ie readers for his wonderful tale of recovering artefacts from the undersea ruins of the Lusitania two years ago.

RTÉ Radio 1 has more on the new documentary HERE.

Published in Diving

#DIVING - The Sub-Aqua Club at NUI Galway and the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology welcomes diving expert Edward Bourke to the NUI Galway campus on 18 October to give a talk on historical wreck diving in Ireland.

The talk will take a look at some of the exploits of wreck and salvage dives in Ireland over the years, exploring the nation of the Irish coast as a hotbed of pioneering subaquatic activity, driven mostly by the recovery of shipborne cannons - not only because of their expense, but also to prevent their falling into the hands of insurgents.

Bourke will give his talk at the Siobhán McKenna Theatre in the Arts Millennium Building at 7pm on Thursday 10 October. The evening will be of interest to local historians and divers alike. And as much of the activity was on the west coast, there is some local maritime interest, too.

Edward Bourke is a microbiologist, maritime historian and diver with Viking Sub Aqua in Dublin for 30 years and has dived in Australia, South Africa, Spain, Croatia, France and UK as well as Ireland. He has published three volumes on Shipwrecks of the Irish Coast, cataloguing some 6,000 wrecks in Irish waters, as well as a book of Irish shipwreck photos and a volume on the wreck of the Tayleur at Lambay Island. A scientist with Diageo, Bourke's most recent publication is a history of Guinness.

Published in Diving
With the Lusitania expedition in the news, Saturday's Irish Times presents a guide to some of Ireland's most interesting diving sites for all levels of experience.
Though Ireland can boast an abundance of shipwreck sites, a number of them are off-limits to anyone but the hardiest expert explorers, while others require a licence from the Department of Hertiage.
But open dives are still plenty, such as the wreck of UC-42 off Roches Point in Cork, which happens to lie in a popular diving range, and the Empire Hertiage, which lies 30km off the coast of Malin Head and is regarded as one of Ireland's best wreck dives.
Among the licenced dives, the HMS Vanguard - which was tragically sunk 19km east of Bray by its sister ship Iron Duke in 1875 - is a top contender, with the summer months providing astounding visibility of the ships 9in guns.
The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

With the Lusitania expedition in the news, Saturday's Irish Times presents a guide to some of Ireland's most interesting diving sites for all levels of experience.

Though Ireland can boast an abundance of shipwreck sites, a number of them are off-limits to anyone but the hardiest expert explorers, while others require a licence from the Department of Hertiage.

But open dives are still plenty, such as the wreck of UC-42 off Roches Point in Cork, which happens to lie in a popular diving range, and the Empire Hertiage, which lies 30km off the coast of Malin Head and is regarded as one of Ireland's best wreck dives.

Among the licenced dives, the HMS Vanguard - which was tragically sunk 19km east of Bray by its sister ship Iron Duke in 1875 - is a top contender, with the summer months providing astounding visibility of the ship's 9in guns.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Diving
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Ireland's Commercial Fishing 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.

FAQs

Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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